Hands On

Stud­ies have shown that mas­sage ther­apy can hold its own as an ef­fec­tive health treat­ment for many con­di­tions, writes Paula Goodyer.

Australian House & Garden - - CONTENTS -

Heal­ing with mas­sage.

‘Mas­sage ther­apy stim­u­lates the ner­vous sys­tem to turn down the vol­ume on pain and re­lieve ten­sion in the body’s tis­sues.’

Stroll through any large shop­ping cen­tre and you’ll prob­a­bly en­counter at least one place of­fer­ing mas­sages.

“Two decades ago, mas­sage ther­apy was on the hip­pie fringe, but now it has rock­eted into the main­stream,” says Rebecca Bar­nett, CEO of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Mas­sage Ther­a­pists. “There’s more aware­ness that a mas­sage is not just an in­dul­gence but part of health care, and it’s recog­nised by health funds.”

Mas­sage is no cure-all, but it can bring short-term re­lief for many com­mon con­di­tions and types of chronic pain, and help re­duce de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety. Stud­ies have also found that mas­sag­ing pre­ma­ture or low-weight ba­bies can im­prove weight gain and re­duce their time in hospi­tal. For ex­er­cis­ers, mas­sage can rem­edy sore­ness af­ter a work­out. And for any­one with can­cer, the Can­cer Coun­cil says there is ev­i­dence that mas­sage can al­le­vi­ate pain, anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and nau­sea.

So how does mas­sage work? “Cur­rent sci­ence sug­gests its ef­fects are mainly due to the neu­rol­ogy of touch,” says Bar­nett. “We’re stim­u­lat­ing the ner­vous sys­tem to hope­fully turn down the vol­ume on pain and re­lieve ten­sion in the body’s tis­sues.”

Mas­sage also pro­motes the re­lease of ‘feel good’ chem­i­cals called en­dor­phins, which act to re­duce stress and pain, adds Daniel Searle of the Aus­tralian Phys­io­ther­apy As­so­ci­a­tion. “It in­creases blood flow to mus­cles and other soft tis­sues,” he says. “This can help with heal­ing.” It also speeds up re­cov­ery by flush­ing out waste prod­ucts that can build up in mus­cles as a re­sult of in­jury or ex­er­cise, caus­ing swelling and fa­tigue.

But what about the con­fus­ing num­ber of terms used for mas­sage, from Swedish to re­me­dial? In many cases, the tech­niques are sim­i­lar, says Bar­nett, stress­ing that the bot­tom line for choos­ing a mas­sage ther­a­pist is to check their qual­i­fi­ca­tions. “If you need help to deal with an in­jury or pain, the ther­a­pist should have a Di­ploma of Re­me­dial Mas­sage,” she ex­plains. “If you just want a mas­sage for gen­eral well­be­ing or re­lax­ation, then a Cer­tifi­cate IV in Mas­sage Ther­apy is fine.”

Searle adds an­other cri­te­rion. “It’s very im­por­tant that you feel com­fort­able with the per­son giv­ing the mas­sage.”

Rebecca Bar­nett, As­so­ci­a­tion of Mas­sage Ther­a­pists

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